Posts tagged “review”

Interviewing Users reviewed in QRCA Views Magazine

interviewing-users

Interviewing Users is now available. Get your copy here!

George Sloan has reviewed Interviewing Users in QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultants Association) Views Magazine. You can see the entire issue of the magazine here or read the review as a PDF here.

From an experienced researcher’s point of view, Interviewing Users is confirmation of the skills you have developed over the years, written from a research professional’s point of view. From a corporate researcher’s point of view, this book is strong armament to bring the design team into the research process with actual users, rather than thinking that they (as product users themselves) know all the issues involved.

Trying the Iguana Cha-Cha: Thoughts on Steve Portigal’s Improv Talk

Alicia Dornadic has a great writeup of last week’s talk on improv, creativity and design.
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Overcoming one’s fears to do improv in front of a group of strangers must feel so empowering, but watching it can be excruciating. Some people are deer in headlights, whereas others are composed and focused. But the activity goes well, meaning everyone manages to say a word in turn, and at times the sentences actually make sense. “How did it go?” Steve asks when they’re done. Participants share that it was hard to anticipate what would be said, so they had to be “in the moment.” You can’t control the sentence and so just have to go with the flow. Sometimes you have be a “the” person or an “and” person to help the sentence make sense, sacrificing a cool word choice to help the team. Get where this is going? Good collaboration tips. Personally, I love to see the player’s expression the second after they say their word. Eyes wide, relieved that they said something, hopeful to see what comes next. It was exciting.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Drilling Down – Why Elite Shoppers Eschew Logos [NYTimes.com] – Rather than rely on obvious logos, expensive products use more discreet markers, such as distinctive design or detailing. High-end consumers prefer markers of status that are not decipherable by the mainstream. These signal group identity only to others with the connoisseurship to recognize their insider standing. In one study, fashion students were more likely than regular students to favor subtle signals for products visible to others, like handbags. But for private products less relevant to identity, like underwear and socks, there was no difference between the groups. Jonah Berger, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the paper’s authors, said it was not that insiders simply had a dislike for logos. Instead, he said, they avoid them “in identity-relevant domains to distinguish themselves from mainstream consumers who buy such products to show they’ve made it.”
  • [from steve_portigal] ElderGadget.com | News and Reviews of Products with Elder Friendly Features – Those of us with aging parents share many things, chief among them the desire that our elderly loved ones have the opportunity for the same quality of life that we enjoy. For some this means remaining independent, for others it might mean a need to make caregiving simpler to meet the needs of people we love. The elderly prefer simple uncomplicated gadgets and products which are lighter and specially designed with higher contrast, pre-programmed features. Products of use might include talking Pill boxes, medi-alerts, and a myriad of gadgets with simple “how to use” instructions. That’s the focus with Eldergadget, a comprehensive blog where a person with an aging loved one can go to find the latest gadgets that meet a seniors needs and maybe some products you have never dreamed possible. We also bring you the latest up to date news, videos and developments in technology for seniors. We also include lighthearted fare such as humor and retro gadgets in order to brighten a person’s day.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Book Review: The Authenticity Hoax [WSJ.com] – ..the craving for authenticity among those in the West who see a market economy and consumer culture as sterile and false—inauthentic—and who defend the world's most repressive cultures, looking past their brutality to admire their resistance to modernity. It is the disillusionment with modernity that underlies the authenticity quest. When man was preoccupied with finding food and appeasing capricious gods, he didn't have the time or inclination to ask whether he had "sold out" for an easy paycheck or failed to align himself with some abstract ideal of the "authentic" life. But then science made the formerly mystical cosmos explainable, and a spread of democratic ideas, in politics and markets alike, made food and freedom more broadly shared. The result was "a new kind of society and, inevitably, a new kind of person," one more given to looking within for meaning and not liking what he found there. The individual's own self-definition filled the gap left by faith and authority.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Book Review: Deconstructing Product Design, by William Lidwell and Gerry Manacsa – …the color commentary from design thinkers such as interaction designer Jon Kolko, product designer Scott Henderson and design researcher Steve Portigal….While I never imagined that product design would have a sounding board to rival the judges of American Idol, Deconstructing Product Design provides exactly such a chorus. So while Tickle Me Elmo himself is lavished with product love worthy of Paula Abdul, the oversexed and strangely hydrocephalic-headed Bratz dolls spark diverse criticism and discussion. As a writer for a design blog, critiquing a book that brings together disparate voices critiquing products is (a) rather meta, and (b) totally hypocritical, but the remarkable thing about observing the way culture is observed is that it rarely fails to entertain.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Seen Reading – a "literary voyeruism blog" set mostly (I believe) in Toronto – What is Seen Reading?

    1. I see you reading.
    2. I remember what page you’re on in the book.
    3. I head to the bookstore, and make a note of the text.
    4. I let my imagination rip.
    5. Readers become celebrities.
    6. People get giddy and buy more books.

    Why do you do this?
    Readers are cool. Authors work hard. Publishers take chances. And you all deserve to be seen!

    (Thanks Suzanne Long!)

  • Choose What You Read NY – Choose What You Read NY is a non profit organization that offers free books to New Yorkers, encouraging its residents to read more, giving them an alternative to the free papers that get tossed out and even the digi-trash that crowds our time. In doing so, we help to recycle used books that would have unfortunately been thrown away.

    You will find us near major subway stations on the first Tuesday of each month.The idea is that once someone is finished with a book, they either drop it off in one of our conveniently located drop boxes or back to us at a station. Unlike a library, there will be no due dates, penalties, fees or registrations. We only ask that you return it once you are done so that the same book can be enjoyed by another commuter.

  • What was the last book, magazine and newspaper you read on the subway? – 6000 people respond and the New York Times posts the results
  • How and what people read on the New York City subways – Plenty of detailed examples of people, their books, and their travels: "Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read.

    There are those whose commutes are carefully timed to the length of a Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker, those who methodically page their way through the classics, and those who always carry a second trash novel in case they unexpectedly make it to the end of the first on a glacial F train."

    (thanks Avi and Anne)

  • Lego grabs ahold of customers with both hands – From 2006, great Wired piece about Lego's approach to involving ardent fans/customers in developing future products.
  • Noting:books – the simple yet dynamic way to track your reading, from the dates you start and finish a book, to your thoughts along the way.
  • CourseSmart brings textbooks to the iPhone in PDF; major readability challenges ensue – “It’s not the first place to go to read your textbook,” Mr. Lyman said of the iPhone app. But he said that it could be helpful if “you’re standing outside of the classroom, the quiz is in 10 minutes, and you want to go back to that end-of-chapter summary that helped you understand the material.”
  • Nice profile of Lego’s business culture and the tension between growth and losing track of their legacy – But the story of Lego’s renaissance — and its current expansion into new segments like virtual reality and video games — isn’t just a toy story. It’s also a reminder of how even the best brands can lose their luster but bounce back with a change in strategy and occasionally painful adaptation.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Hallmark Cards to feature licensed audio content from NBC Universal – NBC Universal has sealed a new licensing deal with Hallmark Cards that includes the use of the company's film and TV content. Sound cards from Universal films such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Sixteen Candles" and "Jaws" will be included as well. Ditto "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Battlestar," as well as NBC News archives. Beyond cards, the deal includes "a wide range of social expression products."
  • Escapism in Minutiae of Daily Life – nice NYT review of Sims 3 – It is almost impossible to avoid the temptation to make a Sim version of yourself, either as you really are or as you wish to be. In that sense the game presents basic but important questions: What kind of person am I? What kind of person would I like to become? How do I treat the people around me? What is important to me in life? What are my core values?

    Children usually form their tentative answers to these questions without considering them explicitly. Adults, by contrast, often confront such issues, even tangentially, only in the context of intense emotional involvement, some sort of crisis or high-priced psychotherapy.

    Most video games exist to allow the player to forget completely about the real world. The Sims accomplishes the rare feat of entertaining while also provoking intellectual and emotional engagement with some of life’s fundamental questions. I love aliens and zombies, but a little reality in my gaming once in a while is not a horrible thing.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Listening to customer feedback? Twenty-Five Years of Post-it Notes (Thx, @susandra) – In '77, 3M decided to test-market. It failed to ignite interest. “When we did the follow-up research, there just weren’t a lot of people saying this was a product they wanted.”
    "We knew the test markets failed, but we just kept saying, ‘Maybe it was us. Maybe we did something wrong. Because it couldn’t be the product—the product was great.”
    To see for themselves how people responded to Post-it Notes, 2 execs cold-called offices, giving away samples and showing people how to use 'em. The responses were more enthusiastic. “Those things really were like cocaine. You got them into somebody’s hands, and they couldn’t help but play around with them.”
    1 more test was in order. They got newspapers to run stories about it. They festooned stationery stores with banner displays and point-of-purchase materials. 1000s of samples were sent to office managers, purchasing agents, lawyers, etc. People demonstrated it to potential customers. It was a huge success, and 3M decided to launch Post-Its.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Peter Arnell Explains Failed Tropicana Package Design – Big outcry over the Tropicana packaging design (which this suggests was NOT tested but that's hard to believe) led to a return to the previous packaging.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Malcolm Gladwell on the Aeron chair – The Aeron chair was originally despised and deemed ugly. It didn’t catch on for 2 years, and then it quickly became the most popular chair. Everyone came to love it. Gladwell concludes that people find responses about some topics extremely difficult to articulate. While they may think they dislike something (like the Aeron chair), in their hearts they may actually like it. There is a disconnect that causes people to express dislike in their heads while they actually like it in their hearts (and vice versa).
  • Listening to customer feedback? Hate Facebook's new look? You'll like it soon enough. – Slate advances the point that people react to change negatively but eventually get used to the change and make it work.
  • Listening to customer feedback? Problems With NBC’s ‘Parks & Recreation’ – When do you listen to negative feedback and when do you follow your vision? I think there's an important middle-ground that is often ignored: understanding what lies beneath that feedback and choosing carefully if and how to respond to it, or how to create supporting activities that help get over the barriers that the rejection points to

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice: the appeal of simplification by choice elimination – At the bottom of the Heaven's Dog cocktail list there's a category called "Freedom from Choice," where you leave it up to the bar staff to decide your drink. Diners choose the spirit they'd like and whether it should be "citrus-driven or spirituous."
  • Home + Housewares Show 2009…in Cartoons! – Pithy, brilliant, hilarious. Applies pretty much to every tradeshow I've ever been to.
  • Ask Jeremiah: The Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter – It's a great document, but an online FAQ on someone's site is good for the type of user who is going to seek this document out…the mass adoption from Twitter is not going be as well supported by documents like this as it would be through the experience that Twitter itself creates
  • Lisa Smith and Caroline Linder at the Home + Housewares Show 2009 – "a maze of the bizarre and the banal, including picture frame air fresheners, pet hair picker-uppers, fingerprintless garbage cans, antibacterial marinaters, high-power vacuum cleaners, automatic hair-cutters, gas-powered blenders, anti-static dusters and instant boot dryers."
    "the spectacle is especially nightmarish; it represents the darker side of our discipline–product design gone wild and unchecked in the marketplace"
    "Who knew that both Miami Vice and the Southwestern pottery craze are preserved within the wide color range of KitchenAid Mixers?"
    "Q: How did you pick these forms? A:Oh, these are historical forms that we made up.""

Show Busy-ness

The critics seem to have grasped the limited resource of attention that is impacting (and yet driving) the exploding volume of media we are faced with.

From two different reviews of The Nine

The SF Chronicle

What the TV industry has wrought this year, making us choose among “Brothers & Sisters,” “Men in Trees,” “Six Degrees,” “Ugly Betty,” etc. — puts a burden on viewers to make a bevy of decisions quickly.

The New York Times

Not many people have time and energy to commit themselves to yet another series that requires weekly loyalty and close attention.

There’s obviously some problems with the models here; as everything gets more narrowcast, we can’t – and aren’t expected to – consume it all, indeed we’ll need to just ignore most of it. So why are there more products that demand even greater loyalty? Dick Wolf, in an extensive New York Times Magazine profile a year or so ago, pointed out some of the elements designed into Law and Order that made them re-watchable and timeless, making for huge wins in syndication. These other shows – cliffhanging serials – may or may not do as well in syndication, but I imagine they’ll do better on DVD. The barrier to entry is high, the barrier to late entry is impossibly high. This can breed high loyalty, doubtless, for those that do join the exclusive viewer club, but the critics are right to question the wisdom of Lost-followers trying to repeat that trick.

Bitchy Rashid Review

From House & Garden comes this awesomely negative review of Karim Rashid’s new book.

Considering the chutzpah of the basic conceit, I expected Rashid to pepper the volume with absurd pronouncements. To my great disappointment, the most shocking thing about the book is the banality of the designer’s advice: “If you’re short, don’t worry about it.” “Clip and trim your nose hairs.” “Make friends online.” “Know yourself.” Try to imagine Dr. Phil grooving on some pharmaceuticals at the Milan Furniture Fair and you start to get the picture. Predictably, the book is rife with evidence of Rashid’s narcissism, but even those passages don’t relieve the painful tedium.

WB lowers its standards one last time

Another hilarious Tim Goodman skewering of crappy TV (new series The Bedford Diaries) in WB lowers its standards one last time

The WB sent two episodes. To finish the first was like having dental floss wrapped around your spleen and then pulled up and out of your mouth by a runaway horse. Second episode? There’s not enough Percocet on this continent.

Through wincing eyes, one must endure young Owen getting paired in a class assignment with a pretty young girl who — gasp! — was the sole survivor of a rash of students who jumped off a very, very tall building in a suicidal leap. (Apparently they had all seen early screeners of the series.) Having survived (she has a small limp, because anything more would be ugly by WB standards), she’s paired with Unlikable Fabio and he says to his video camera later: ‘A girl who would jump off a roof. There is something very hot about that kind of crazy.’

There might be a word missing in that quote. If you put both of your hands over your ears and yell ‘Make it stop!’ at the top of your lungs, then it’s quite difficult to be verbatim about these things.

DUX05 review

On UXmatters, Elizabeth Bacon writes up her experiences at DUX05, including a pretty nice summary of my tutorial

After more immersive improv exercises, Steve helped put the concepts together for the class. Successful improv involves taking an idea thrown to you by another participant and turning it into something else?something greater and maybe even something funny?and then tossing that idea along to the next participant. Improv is a group activity wherein listening is essential. Also, as in ethnographic research, experiencing empathy for your fellows is an essential key to gleaning and processing information. We can?t move from an analytical, or etic, point of view to an internalized, or emic, perspective that interprets the true meaning of things without engaging our hearts, minds, and bodies in the activity.

Bitchy review of Rosie in Fiddler

Bitchy review of Rosie in Fiddler

Here are instructions for transforming yourself into a Jewish matriarch in provincial Russia in 1905, inspired by Rosie O’Donnell’s performance in “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Minskoff Theater. Feel free to try this at home.

1. Plant yourself on the floor as if you were an oak.
2. Puff out your chest.
3. Place the palm of your left hand on the back of your left hip.

And, voilÔø?!, you have instant Golde, the wife of Tevye, the philosopher-milkman in the musical adaptation of Sholom Aleichem’s stories of shtetl life in the twilight of imperial Russia. Just strike that commanding maternal pose and all other essential elements of character will soon arrive naturally. It might help if you prayed a little, too.

That would seem to be Ms. O’Donnell’s approach to a role previously played by Randy Graff and Andrea Martin in David Leveaux’s elegant but empty revival of this much-loved show by Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Alas, a pose and a prayer prove to be not quite enough to allow Ms. O’Donnell – the comedian, television personality, theatrical producer, sometime actress and confessional blogger – to make us believe that she is someone other than who she so famously is.

Her accent trots the globe, through countries real and imagined. It is variously Irish, Yiddish, Long Island-ish and, for big dramatic moments, crisp and round in the style of introduction-to-theater students. Her relationship with the notes and keys of a song is similarly fluid.

In the scene where Tevye (Harvey Fierstein) frightens his wife by describing an ominous dream, Ms. O’Donnell puts her hands to her pinchable cheeks and emanates a series of high-pitched o’s, bringing to mind a distressed dolphin. Whether center stage or on the sidelines, she can be relied upon to react with italicized gestures and facial expressions to what everyone else is saying.

Ms. O’Donnell, who has previously appeared on Broadway as a tough teenager in “Grease” and the Cat in the Hat in “Seussical,” executes all this with a cheerful confidence that is unfortunately not infectious. A stalwart promoter of Broadway when she was a television talk show host, Ms. O’Donnell does seem to be enjoying herself.

But as is usual with her stage performances, she suggests a jill-of-all-trades who thought she might as well try her hand at acting, too. The overall impression brings to mind what might happen if the lead in a high school production fell ill and the director turned to the most popular and reliable girl in the senior class (who is already the captain of the field hockey team, the debating society and the pep club) to fill in.

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